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European Commissioner for Education and Culture Androulla Vassiliou met the Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons to discuss his recent film documentary, Trashed, which highlights the huge impact of global waste on the environment and human health.


Directed by British filmmaker Candida Brady, the documentary takes Irons on a shocking journey across the world to see how mounting toxic plastic waste is contaminating our landscapes and oceans, and posing a serious risk to the health of children and adults.

Inadequate recycling, increased consumer materialism and a failure to build products that last or can be repaired are contributing to the problem, according to Irons, who narrates the documentary. During his visit to Brussels, he spoke of his frustration that too many countries seem to view eco-spending as an optional extra. “There is a constant desire to talk about environmentalism rather as we talk about the arts, something that we’ll do when we can afford it, when everything is going well. ‘Just at the moment, however, the economy is in a bit of a dive, so we can’t’,” is the typical reaction, he commented.

Encouraging education

Commissioner Vassiliou told Irons and Brady that she would encourage EU Education Ministers to screen the documentary at a future meeting. The filmmakers plan to make a shorter version for children. Commissioner said she would urge European Schoolnet, a network whose members are the education ministries of the EU Member States, EFTA countries, Switzerland, Turkey, Georgia and Israel, to help raise awareness about it.

“We want to take a lead on this issue in Europe and to do that we need to educate people, especially young people, about the long-term risks of not addressing the waste problem,” added Commissioner Vassiliou. During their visit to Brussels, Irons and Brady also met Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, who unveiled a Green Paper today which aims to kick-start a Europe-wide debate on how to make plastic products more sustainable throughout their life cycle and reduce the impact of plastic waste on the environment. “Managing plastic waste is a major challenge in terms of environmental protection, but it’s also a huge opportunity for resource efficiency. I invite all stakeholders to participate in this process of reflection on how to make plastic part of the solution rather than the problem,” said Potočnik.

The Movie Trashed was first screened at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.

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